K-9 recruits join Port Authority Police after graduation

They’re the “ruffest” rookies around.

Seven new four-legged recruits earned their diplomas Friday when they graduated from the Port Authority Police Canine Unit.

The mostly German Shepherd K-9’s – Hamilton, Tonga, Bexter, Aron, Odin, Balu, and Ares – could hardly contain their excitement during the ceremony at the Port Authority Police Building in Newark, New Jersey.

During the singing of the national anthem, some of the pups could be heard barking.

As Hamilton waited to receive his diploma, he whined and jumped on his handler Officer Daniel Alvarez, and then Balu’s barking set off the other dogs when his photo-op ended.

The dogs, who all live at home with their human partners, graduated after 14 weeks of arduous training. The K-9’s were assigned to either do explosive detection or narcotic detection.

They were taught to identify 18 different odors and given obedience and agility training, officials said.

“Our K-9 units are not permitted to make a mistake. If they make a mistake it could be catastrophic in nature,” Edward Cetnar, the department’s superintendent of police, said during the ceremony.

“The dedication it takes from the trainer and their relationship with the canine is so important. They actually feed off each other,” Cetnar said.

He noted that the training transforms the pooches.

“By the time they leave here on graduation day, it’s almost like a whole new canine,” Cetnar said.

Officer Spencer Newman, whose dog Odin graduated with the basic explosive detector canine class, called the pup “a great dog at home.”

“The kids can pull his tail pull his ears and he doesn’t care. He loves running around in the backyard with his balls.”

However, Newman says, “When he comes to work, he’s just a different dog. He turns it on and he’s ready to work.”

Newman added: “We’re still establishing the trust.”

Officer Paul Hugerich, whose dog Bexter also graduated with the basic explosive detector class, said when his animal partner works “he’s very focused.”

“When he’s out there he wants to find the odors,” Hugerich said. “When he finds it he’s extremely enthusiastic because he gets his little toy to play with. That’s all he works for.”

Filed under 8/3/18